As right-wing demagoguery continues to grow from Poland all the way to Brazil, negotiators from almost 200 countries meet this week in Bonn, Germany, in the biggest climate change talks of the year. Here are some important arguments that inform the climate change debate as it stands today.
Germany’s carefully cultivated hypocrisy
Germany may have once been a leader in addressing climate change. But its portrayal as one now is no more than a “transparent fiction,” writes Paul Hockenos in Foreign Policy.
“Germany has fallen badly behind on its pledges to sink its own greenhouse gas pollutants. In fact, Germany’s carbon emissions haven’t declined for nearly a decade and the German Environment Agency calculated that Germany emitted 906 million tons of CO2 in 2016 — the highest in Europe — compared to 902 million in 2015. And 2017’s interim numbers suggest emissions are going to tick up again this year,” Hockenos writes.
“Germany is now in serious danger of hitting neither its 2020 nor its 2030 emissions targets, the very benchmarks that it browbeat other nations into adopting at previous climate conferences.”
“Germany’s prodigious coal production for coal-fired power plants, on the one hand, and its sheltered automobile industry on the other.
“Germany is Europe’s largest producer and burner of coal, which accounted for 49 percent of gross power production in 2016: 28 percent from hard coal and 21 percent from lignite, also known as brown coal, among the dirtiest of fossil fuels, which Germany mines more of than any other country in the world.”
The alternatives to Trump
Since Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, others, including China, have taken up the climate leadership role, writes Lisa Friedman in The New York Times.
“President Xi Jinping didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name at the opening of the Communist Party Congress last month, but his meaning was clear when he declared that China had taken a ‘driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change’.He also criticized countries that ‘retreat into self-isolation’
“Many political analysts say China has indeed moved dramatically on climate change, both to meet its own pledge under the Paris accord to cap carbon emissions by 2030, and to start the world’s largest carbon market and swiftly expand the use of electric cars. In recent months, China has hosted ministerial-level meetings on clean energy and joined Canada and the European Union to lead discussions on climate.”
The second notice could be the last lesson
Humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet, a group of 1,700 scientists warned in late 1992. 25 years since, things have only gotten worse prompting 15,000 scientists across the world to issue a desperate follow-up, writes Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post.
“To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.”
“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” they write.
“This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a ‘second notice,’ the authors say: ‘Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory’.”
“Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path. We are hoping that our paper will ignite a widespread public debate about the global environment and climate,” the letter reads.
What’s changed in Poland?
“During the two and a half decades that followed the end of communism in Poland, Polish neo-fascists were never numerous enough to be taken seriously,” writes Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Something seems to be changing now.
This year, 60,000 “patriotic” marchers showed up at the Independence Day march, including “a significant group of (mostly) men marching under the names of prewar nationalist groups and behind racist signs: ‘White Europe,’ or ‘Europe Will Be White,’ or ‘Clean Blood.'”
“Nowadays, neo-fascism and open racism are no longer the province of national parties. In part as a consequence of the borderless Europe they claim to hate, these are now international movements. Large contingents of Hungarian, Slovak and Italian neo-fascist groups came to Warsaw to join the march; for the first time, international alt-right trolls were also actively supporting the march on Twitter and elsewhere, “alt-right” being the modern-sounding term for neo-fascist. There is a Russian angle, too, although few in this Polish government want to admit it. Just like everywhere else, there is Russian support for the most discordant far-right elements of Polish politics, especially online. Poland’s divisive defense minister, a particularly loud ‘patriot,’ has strange Russian links as well.”
“Some of those marching also believe they have support from the United States.”
Brazil’s right-wing demagogue
A militant public opinion, the growing influence of social conservatism and anger about the economy, crime and corruption, are giving rise to Brazil’s Donald Trump — Jair Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman and would-be president, writes The Economist.
“A religious nationalist and former army captain, he is anti-gay, pro-gun, and an apologist for dictators who tortured and killed Brazilians between 1964 and 1985. He rails against the political elite, whose venality has been exposed by the three-year Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation.”
“Mr Bolsonaro, who represents Rio de Janeiro in congress, hopes to be a Brazilian Donald Trump. His rhetoric is even more indecorous. In 2016 Mr Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to impeach Dilma Rousseff, then Brazil’s president, to the dictatorship’s chief torturer, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. (Ms Rousseff herself, once a member of an urban guerrilla group, had been tortured by the military regime.) In 2014 he told a congresswoman he wouldn’t rape her ‘because you don’t deserve it’.”
Even as a third of Brazilians rule out voting for him in the first round, “Mr Bolsonaro’s strong early showing is a warning sign. Centrists must prove that they are better equipped than extremists to repair the damage politicians have done.”